• Prof. Lamdan

FOIA Exemption Project Resources

Updated: Jan 23

Guidelines for Presentations


In small groups, we will introduce our colleagues to each FOIA exemption. FOIA exemptions are fascinating for many reasons: They demonstrate where Congress draws the lines separating transparency and privacy, reveal the government's rationales for withholding records, and prompt a lot of our most interesting FOIA litigation and court decisions.


These presentations will be about 10 minutes in length, with 10 minutes of discussion (20 minutes total), and they will be conversational. You can make slides/handouts/any tools that would help you organize your speaking points, but you are not obligated to make any materials. These presentations are part of our participation points for the semester. Some things that would be interesting to discuss include:

  • Legislative history - why was this exemption included in the FOIA?

  • How have courts interpreted this exemption - what FOIA disclosures are required and what disclosures are prohibited?

  • How frequently is your exemption invoked? Is it common or not? (Note, some exemptions become popular during certain administrations/events. For instance, Exemption 5 is a very hot topic right now, and Exemption 7 was popular during the Mueller investigation.)

  • Are there any juicy news stories/historical events involving your exemption?

Here are some helpful materials to spark your research:

Government & Non-government Organizations Have Created Awesome Resources On FOIA Exemptions:


Be prepared to talk about the following topics:

  • What does your exemption cover?

  • Why does your exemption exist? (Consider rationale, legislative history, "winners and losers" from a records access perspective)

  • How do courts assess whether the exemption applies? (Discuss major cases, holdings, and court interpretations and tests)

  • How often is your exemption invoked? (For instance, b(5) is pretty common these days, but b(9) is pretty rare. Why is that so?)

  • Examples of your exemption in the news/current or recent events (if any exist that you think would be interesting to discuss)




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